I came back to the Chicago area for a number of reasons. In fact, I had so many reasons to be here, it would have been hard to justify not being here. Simply put, it was where I needed to be at this particular time, despite the fact that I now live elsewhere.
The primary reason for my visit was to meet my family’s newest member; my nephew, who was born only a week before I arrived back in Chicago’s Northwest suburbs, where both my parents, and my sister/ brother-in-law live. At the age of 8 days, I got to meet him, and was able to subsequently spend some time with him over the course of the following week. However, as I sit back at my home in Denver, I cannot help but think of what I am missing out on being 1000 miles away from “home”. Specifically, I am thinking of this newborn baby, who will go through different phases of development, possibly on a daily to weekly basis for some time to come, as life changes at a faster pace for children than it does for adults. Even if I come back twice a year, there are phases in his development I am destined to miss. That is just the way it is.
However, my mind also drifts to all the rest of my family members, as well as my friends, back here in Chicago (as well as the surrounding area). While adults have lives that do not go through changes in as rapid of succession as children, and it is easier to “catch up”, we still do have experiences on a daily basis. And, as much as some people post much of their daily lives on social media, or do a decent job of keeping in touch, I do wonder what I am missing. I dwell on the fun daily events, strange occurrences and “inside jokes” that made all of the people around me so much fun to be around. But, I also dwell on the ups and downs, and the times when someone important to you just simply needs some encouragement, or, conversely, some advice.
I was wearing a suit the day I met my nephew, as I was on my way to the first of a number of events I would also attend over the course of the week. This one, a wedding for one of my good friends from college, in Northwest Indiana.
Here, not only did I get to witness the big day for the bride and groom, but as is common with events like this, I got the chance to hang out with several other friends from college. In a way it was just like it was back in the day. There are some people in all of our lives who we can not see for weeks, months, years, and still just pick right back up where we left off as if we had just seen each other the previous day. I am blessed to have a good number of people like this in my life.
However, there was an obvious difference between now and then, and that is children. Some of my friends also traveled a significant distance to be at this wedding, and they did so with children. It is actually pretty inspiring to me, as they had decided somewhat spontaneously to travel to Indiana for this wedding, and were still able to do so despite having a 5 year old and a (not quite) 5 month old respectively. And, they stayed at the wedding longer than many other people. It makes me think of a future chapter of life, that my involve children of my own, with a lot more hope, that maybe the “your life is over” camp are significantly exaggerating when they describe the impact starting a family has on one’s life. So, as was the case with so much of my trip, I was simultaneously living out a past “chapter” of my life, while also getting glimpses of a future “chapter”.
In fact, the rest of my week was also partially a baby/child meeting tour. I wanted to try to see as many people, and take part in as many events with my friends, as possible, while still spending a significant amount of time with my family and my new nephew. Luckily, many of my friends were able to work with me schedule-wise to create a successful trip! And, I got to take part in all kinds of activities ranging from simple lunches to crazy nights out in large groups. Over the course of the week, I was living the life I had lived as a child, as a young adult, and as I will live it in the future. In a way, I spent the week in one place, but in another way, I was in too many different places to count.
The Chicago metropolitan area is centered around downtown, where trains from all directions converge, as do countless people every day. It also includes countless suburbs, and even Northwest Indiana. It is a place where, much like my experiences over the course of the past week, people are doing everything from working hard and playing hard, to relaxing, to trying to do the best the can to raise a family.
And, when I see my newborn nephew, or any newborn child, I see the great equalizer.
Every single person, from the most successful to the biggest failures, from Bill Gates to habitual criminal, from the most personable to the biggest asshole, began as a vulnerable newborn infant, just like this. No matter who someone is, they started out in this position, as a baby, completely dependent on someone else to survive and reach adulthood. And, in the pool of newborn babies at the hospital at any given time, are people that will one day go on to become influential individuals both good and bad, people that will make their families proud, but also people who will one day disappoint, and people who will be nothing but kind and generous to their fellow human beings, but also people who will treat others with contempt and recklessness. But, for now, each child I met over the course of this week is just a child, a person trying to figure out the world around them in various stages. All we can do for them is give a good example. Over the course of the week, I found myself repeating one phrase to the children I had encountered; “A positive attitude is contagious”. When I smiled at a child, they would often smile back. It is basic human nature, and one of the most powerful tools we can take into our day-to-day lives to produce the best possible outcomes.